“Dad, tell me a bedtime story!”
“Another one? Okay. Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a terrrrrible dragon…”
Why do we humans devour stories? We don’t even care where they come from. They can be in the form of movies, TV shows, books, told by our parents or grandparents, or even just a few dozen words on a social media post. It’s like we’re psychologically hardwired to love a good yarn. Fiction or non-fiction, doesn’t matter, long as it keeps our interest. Keeps us distracted. Anything to get us away from whatever’s going on in our lives and fantasize about what COULD be going on. I honestly don’t see what evolutionary benefit such a characteristic could have. It more seems like a detriment, because we might miss a clue to danger nearby. We might miss an opportunity to gain a benefit like food, water, a better life in general, or even love. Why are we so desperate to experience stories? Why don’t we want to stay in the here and now?
For me, I just like to escape. I like to disappear into my fantasy worlds, even if they’re not even made-up worlds, even if they take place right here in real life. I don’t care, I just like to delve into a good story. It sure beats the mundane motions of daily life, doesn’t it? Or it beats the tortures of daily life, if your life is just so bad at the moment you are dying to forget about it, if only for a little while.
When my life was boring and mundane, peaceful and non-dramatic, I yearned for stories that took me along with fictional people or droids or creatures on dangerous, life-threatening adventures. Mainly because I wasn’t having any of my own. But that wasn’t always the case. Even later, when I was sent off to war and had dangerous, life-threatening adventures going on every day, I STILL yearned for fictional adventures. Even when a real war was going on right outside the armored walls of my tank or the thin front door to my Tactical Operations Center, I still wanted to escape into the fictional wars I either created in my sketchbook, or those I found in books, games, anything (movies and TV shows had to wait until the second war when the internet existed). Do I have a problem? Probably. Am I an odd human? No. I discovered a lot of people do this. A whole lot. Even my fellow soldiers who were right there “in the trenches” with me. Why? I have a hypothesis. I’ll get to it in a minute.
A lot of us have the characteristics that so annoyed Yoda when it came to Luke Skywalker. "All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon,“ said the little Jedi Master. "Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing! Hmm…” He then went on to utter the theme of this blog post. "Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things.“
But we’re not Jedi, are we? Going to skip over the fact some of us would like to be and move on.
We real people do crave adventure and excitement, however. Some more than others, and some like to experience it in real life. Some of us don’t. Some of us are just as happy reading or watching or being told about someone else’s adventures. But one fact rings true across the board: No one, and I mean no one, can turn down a good story. I think humans are conditioned for this when we’re children. Our parents tell us stories or read short "picture books” to us to teach life lessons. Not to lie (The Boy Who Cried Wolf), not to be greedy (The Dog and the Bone), not to dwell on our flaws because each of us has talents in our own way (The Cracked Pot). Okay, that last one might not be as popular, but it should be. You get the idea. And when they’re not telling us a story, we ask for one on our own, in the hope of staying up just another couple of minutes and thwarting our evil foe that grown-ups call “Bedtime.” Conditioned at birth. All of us. Every culture, on every inhabited continent on Earth.
Here’s the why: Security. Sanity. Comfort. It’s a way to cope with the stresses of life now that we’re older. A way to keep our heads in the game by taking it OUT of the game. Temporarily, of course. We just need a break, you know? Like a nap in the middle of the day. Stories revitalize us and rejuvenate us and prepare us for the big bad real world that’s just on the other side of the evil alarm clock.
We love stories and we want more, more, MORE. All the time, more. And how do we get more stories? People write them! Even movies and TV shows start out with a written screenplay. On paper or on a screen, every story starts with words that people write and others read. And we all have stories to tell, don’t we? So what inspires you to write? Certain the books you have read in your life? The success of other authors? Crazy random happenstances just going through life in general? Where you say, “there’s a story there!” Perhaps it’s books on the bookshelves of your favorite bookstore or at the library or on Amazon that make you say, “I could have done something like that! And BETTER!” Well don’t just sit there! Pick up that pen and paper. Start writing! Grab that laptop or iPad. Start typing! These words don’t write themselves.
Go, fellow adventurer! WRITE! Excitement awaits!
– Rod Galindo and the Wordwraiths